Alan Twigg, Author

Alan Twigg was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada in 2015. Simon Fraser University described him as “British Columbia’s leading man of letters” when he was accorded a Doctorate of Literature on June 8, 2022. The following year he received the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness for Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature of British Columbia. He is currently making a million-word website about the foremost whistleblower of War War II, Rudolf Vrba, an Auschwitz escapee–and someone he knew.

Read the BC BookLook article here.

In 2000, he was the inaugural recipient of the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to literature and publishing, having been the first and only recipient of the ABPBC Media Award in 1988. In 2007, he became the second person to accept the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University in 2007 “to recognize and support leaders in the humanities who are not necessarily part of the academy.” In the same year he was the first Writer in Residence at the George Price Center for Peace in Belize. In 2010, he received the Pandora’s Collective Publisher’s Award of Merit. In 2011, he received the Mayor of Vancouver’s Literary Arts Award. He received the 13th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2016. He also won a gold medal for Canada in soccer at the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy, in 2013.

“Few writers,” wrote critic John Moore, “would have sacrificed so much time and energy to promote OTHER writers, for so many years, as he has done. If he’d just written his own stuff, he would have lapped George Woodcock, twice, by now.”

In 2020, after 33 years of creating and managing B.C. BookWorld, he decided it was time to opt out of producing Canada’s largest-circulation, independent newspaper about books. By this time he had also created and managed the ABCBookWorld reference site, for and about more than 12,500 B.C. authors, having written most of the entries himself. As well, he created the BCBookLook news service, as well as the Literary Map of BC, the Indigenous Literary Map of BC. Other institutions he created but no longer manages are the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement, the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness and The Ormsby Review, since renamed BC Review under its new owner Richard Mackie. All these enterprises were given away for $1 in order to devote more time to creating his own books, films and websites, most notably, the world’s foremost information hub for and about World War II’s foremost whistleblower Rudolf Vrba, who Twigg knew. He has also created not-for-profit websites for and about the remote village of Luhombero in Tanzania, the multi-faceted writer/philosopher Yosef Wosk and Leonard Cohen.

In terms of new books, he has researched and published Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2022), an unprecedented investigation of the importance of remembering the Holocaust in British Columbia, in which he digests the work of more than eighty writers and their 160 Holocaust-related books that variously pertain to B.C. It was launched at the Jewish Community Centre in April 5, 2022 in conjunction with an autobiography by his friend Robert Krell, arguably Canada’s foremost Holocaust educator. [See INTERNATIONAL section for more info.] Out of Hiding was made available in more than 260 high school libraries throughout British Columbia before it was accorded the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness. It was also shortlisted for the Kahn Family Foundation Prize for Holocaust Literature at the 2023 Western Canada Jewish Book Awards. The Ryga Award and  the Woodcock Award for an Outstanding Literary Career in B.C. have always been jointly presented at the Vancouver Public. Twigg received his award on May 9, 2023 alongside that year’s Woodcock Award recipient Susan Musgrave. 

Alan Twigg and Susan Musgrove

Colleagues since the 1970s, Susan Musgrave and Alan Twigg jointly received their Woodcock and Ryga Awards, respectively, in May of 2023.

Out of Hiding was preceded by a lavish coffee table book that Twigg prepared and edited, Gidal, Letters and Photographs: The Unusual Friendship of Yosef Wosk and Tim Gidal (Douglas & McIntyre 2021). This blend of archival letters, biography and photographs pertaining to the work and life of Tim Gidal was awarded the Pinksy Givon Non-Fiction Prize at the 2023 Western Canada Jewish Book Awards (Twigg is not Jewish).

Twigg also served as editor for The Tenth Nerve: A Brain Surgeon’s Stories of the Patients Who Changed Him (Penguin Random House 2022) by Dr. Christopher Honey, one of Canada’s foremost neurosurgeons. He was contributor to Michael Posner’s Leonard Cohen Untold Stories: From This Broken Hill, Volume 2 (Simon & Schuster 2021) and Leonard Cohen Untold Stories: That’s How the Light Gets In (Simon & Schuster 2022), having contributed to Take This Waltz: A Celebration of Leonard Cohen (Muses’ Company 1994).


Alan Twigg and Leonard Cohen

Alan Twigg and Leonard Cohen

The four-years-in-the-making biography, Moon Madness: Dr. Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa, (Ronsdale 2019), honours the last surviving physician to have worked alongside Dr. Albert Schweitzer. In 2019, Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall of Tsawwassen and Alan Twigg met with the Tanzanian physician Dr. Dan Bhwana, who now runs her epilepsy clinic in Mahenge, Tanzania, to confer as has to how treatments can be maintained in an area of the world where epilepsy rates are ten times higher than the global norm. For doing house calls by canoe, sharing rooms with bats and scorpions, and getting poked and prodded by curious villagers, as well as managing a 300-bed hospital by herself in the Belgian Congo during a civil war, Dr. Louise Aall was awarded a bravery medal from the Red Cross. She died in 2021.

Listen to Alan Twigg’s April, 2021 interview with Sheryl McKay on CBC’s North By Northwest here.


A brief summary: From 1987 until 2020, Alan Twigg created and published B.C. BookWorld, an educational newspaper, distributed via 650 outlets throughout British Columbia, that has been cited by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing as the most essential cog in the infrastructure that supports writing and publishing in British Columbia. From 2001 to 2020, as an adjunct to that populist publication, he created, wrote and managed ABCBookWorld, an unprecedented public reference service for and about more than 12,500 British Columbia authors. Initially hosted by Simon Fraser University Library, this Wikipedia-styled guide to B.C. literature has attracted more than 4,000 visitors per day. As well, from 2014 to 2021, he created, launched and mostly wrote the content for BCBookLook, an omnibus, daily news hub for B.C. literature that also provides original material such as videos, audio interviews, blogs, bestseller lists, lengthy essays, excerpts, theatre reviews, event information and news stories. It currently serves more than 1,000 visitors per day.

In 2015, he created the Literary Map of B.C., a digital platform highlighting the cultural importance of selected B.C. authors and locations. It contains the equivalent of seven books of original text and photos. In 2020, Alan Twigg also founded and wrote the contents for a new Indigenous Literary Map of British Columbia based on his forty years of research on the subject. In keeping with his groundbreaking book, Aboriginality, in 2005–the first book to be exclusively devoted to the Indigenous authors of one Canadian province–the Indigenous Literary Map of British Columbia originally highlighted the literary careers of 100 Indigenous authors of B.C. Another 100 Indigenous authors of B.C. were added in 2022. He has also selected, and written the text for, more than fifty literary landmarks erected throughout Vancouver for the Vancouver Public Library.

In 2007, he organized and hosted Reckoning 07, a conference on the past and future of British Columbia writing and publishing, held at Simon Fraser University in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of BC BookWorld. In 2016, he co-created and launched The Ormsby Review, a new forum for in-depth book reviews and essays pertaining to British Columbia, edited by Richard Mackie. In its first two years as a pilot project, unfunded, they generated 360 contributions from almost 300 contributors. Twigg worked without payment for three years on the project until he sold it to founding editor, Richard Mackie, for $1. It has since become a prodigious avenue for serious criticism of books from and about British Columbia, re-titled BC Review.

From 2016 to 2020, Alan Twigg has spearheaded a campaign to support the remote village of Luhombero in western Tanzania. Funds were raised to purchase a new pick-up truck from Europe to serve as both an emergency vehicle for the community and to assist in agricultural projects for year-round food production. A 14-room primary school was built in 2021. Details are at Previously, for five years, he collected and sent nursing and medical supplies to Belize, in conjunction with DHL. In 1999 he coordinated a fundraising campaign for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, an organization he continues to support.

With website designer Sharon Jackson, he co-created the Indigenous Literary Map of B.C.


Beverly Cramp writes: Alan Twigg is the author and editor of twenty-one books over a forty-year period. Prior to Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature of British Columbia, distributed to all B.C. high schools in January of 2023, he has written three biographies, two collections of interviews, a sports memoir, as well as histories of Belize and Cuba. He provided the introduction for Peter Sekirin’s Memories of Chekhov (2011), co-edited Tolstoy’s Words to Live By (2020) and edited Gidal: The Unusual Friendship of Yosef Wosk and Tim Gidal (2021) about the German-born photojournalist who published perhaps the only unsanctioned photo of Hitler before Hitler declared himself Fuhrer in 1933. In 2008, for M&S editor Douglas Gibson, he wrote Full-Time: A Soccer Story, the first literary book about the beautiful game from a Canadian perspective. It was re-released in a Readers Digest version in 2010. Returning to Europe in 2013, he played on an undefeated Canadian squad that allowed only one goal in seven games to win the world championship for men over age fifty at the World Masters Games in Turin. The World Masters Games are held every four years and are considered the Olympics for global athletes over age thirty-five.

Alan Twigg with George Woodcock

Alan Twigg with George Woodcock

In 2009, he wrote Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks, a book about the private lives of the prolific anarchist George Woodcock and his Buddhist wife Ingeborg Woodcock who befriended the Dalai Lama together in 1961. Their charitable aid work gave rise to two, still operational, non-profit societies, Tibetan Refugee Aid Society and Canada India Village Aid. Befriended by the Woodcocks, Alan Twigg was bequeathed their jalopy and George’s prized, signed, first edition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

In 2010, he published the first critical and comprehensive overview of B.C. literature, The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors, the fourth and largest volume in his series on the literary history of British Columbia that includes First Invaders (2004), Aboriginality (2005) and Thompson’s Highway (2006). Aboriginality is still the only book to have comprehensively examined indigenous literature on a provincial basis.

Alan Twigg with Juan de Fuca

As an historian, Dr. Alan Twigg has visited the little-known park on the island of Kefalonia that is dedicated to the local Greek mariner Apostolos Valeriano who worked for Spain and became known as Juan de Fuca — possibly the first European to “discover” the land mass now known as British Columbia (prior to the Spaniard Juan Perez who arrived a the north end of Haida Gwaii in 1774, four years before Captain James Cook dropped anchor at Friendly Cove).

His first book of literary history, Vancouver & Its Writers, was shortlisted for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 1987. First Invaders was shortlisted for the same award in 2005, the same year he won First Prize in the Lush Creative Non-Fiction contest, sponsored by subTerrain magazine. His award-winning memoir about the death of his father was re-published in The Utne Reader. The Essentials received an honourable mention from the B.C. Historical Society for its annual Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for B.C. history (distinct from the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence). He has been a contributor to books about Leonard Cohen, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, Matt Cohen and the Georgia Straight, as well as assorted anthologies. With the partnership of Yosef Wosk, he built a tribute website about Leonard Cohen with designer Sharon Jackson called MemoriesofLeonard.


Alan Twigg co-founded the B.C. Book Prizes in 1985, serving as its executive director and chief fundraiser during a rebuilding stage in the 1990s, providing continuous management support, unpaid, until 2001 when he was briefly sidelined by a brain tumour that was successfully removed at Vancouver General Hospital. He subsequently edited a book by his surgeon, Dr. Christopher Honey, who discovered and found a cure for an ancient but previously undiagnosed disease now called HELPS. The pair went on to win a goal medal at the World Masters Games together. In 1995, he created the $5000 George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia and continuously managed all aspects of the award for 25 years. In 2004, he co-founded the $2500 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness, for which he continuously provided all administrative services for 20 years. In 2012 he co-founded the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for outstanding academic book about British Columbia, an award he also has co-managed on a volunteer basis. As well, he founded and coordinated the VanCity Book Prize for best B.C. book pertaining to women’s issues. He coordinated the City of Vancouver Book Prize for five years and he has organized various events to honour the province’s senior writers, including a series of events for and about British Columbia’s foremost man of letters, George Woodcock, in 1994, at which time Woodcock was awarded the Freedom of the City and Margaret Atwood was brought to Vancouver to provide an honorary address at the provincial Law Courts auditorium. See the BC Book Awards website.


Among the various documentary films he has written, produced and hosted are George Woodcock, Anarchist of Cherry Street; Jeannette Armstrong: Knowledge-Keeper; and Spilsbury’s Coast which aired nationally on CBC.  Versions are available for viewing elsewhere on this site. Other documentary film subjects have included Eric Nicol, Peter Trower, the B.C. Book Prizes and the activist/poet Bud Osborn, for whom he produced a music CD called Hundred Block Rock. He and musician/colleague David Lester helped to orchestrate Bud Osborn’s candidacy for city council. He contributed to Sheryl MacKay’s CBC Radio program North by Northwest with an ongoing series about important B.C. books called ‘Turning Up the Volumes’ and he has hosted a CBC television series about B.C. authors. From 1995 to 1998, he was an editorial page columnist for The Province, a stint that was terminated by the intervention of Conrad Black, the owner, who objected to his opinions. He has contributed to many other  publications such as Quill & Quire, BC Historical News, Georgia Straight, Globe & Mail, British Columbia History, Lived Experience, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Maclean’s, Vancouver Sun, Step and Pacific Northwest Review of Books.

For approximately three years in the early 1980s, he wrote a weekly theatre column for Georgia Straight, taking over the column from Tom Shandel and participating in the inaugural Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards. He also edited one issue of the Georgia Straight newspaper (with Arts Club mentor and manager Bill Millerd on its cover). He wrote and performed an original musical at the Arts Club Revue Theatre, Where The Songs Come From. In 2013, under the pseudonym Paul Durras, he resumed providing theatre reviews for The Province and for, a site managed by veteran actor Jerry Wasserman.

Having dropped out of SFU in 1971 after one year of study, choosing instead to drive a garbage truck, Alan Twigg later became a founding board member of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. He has subsequently taught a few classes at the Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and various high schools but considers himself an unsuitable teacher.

He served a two-year term as a Library Trustee on the board of directors for the Vancouver Public Library (2011-2012) and endured a stint on the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Committee until he decided most of the civic-funded art was next-to-useless. He has hosted countless literary events, including the Simon Fraser University’s third annual Symposium on the Novel at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in 2004, as well as the 25th annual B.C. Book Prizes gala in 2009.

Forebearers of both his mother and father lived in British Columbia in the 1800s. Like his mentor George Woodcock, Alan Twigg considers himself a British Columbia first, and a Canadian second. As a fifth-generation builder of British Columbia, he often quotes the Nanaimo-born author Anne Cameron of Tahsis: “We put the Rocky Mountains there so that only the smart ones could figure out how to get through.” A fan of Henry Aaron and Thomas Hardy, he can most often be heard quoting the South American-born, Spanish sea captain Bodega y Quadra: “I sailed on, taking fresh trouble for granted.” — by Beverly Cramp


AUDIO FILE: Prior to receiving the 13th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2016, Alan Twigg was also interviewed by CBC Radio’s Sheryl MacKay for her program, North By Northwest, on May 1, 2016.


Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature of British Columbia (Ronsdale Press, 2022) 327 pages

Gidal: The Unusual Friendship of Yosef Wosk and Tim Gidal — Letters & Photographs (Douglas & McIntyre, 2022). Editor. 280 p.

Tolstoy’s Words to Live By (Ronsdale, 2020). 978-1-55380-629-5 Editor. 240 p.

Moon Madness: Dr. Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa (Ronsdale, 2019) 229 p.

Undaunted: The Best of BC BookWorld (Ronsdale, 2013). 978-1-55380-253-2  Editor. 242 p.

The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors. (Ronsdale, 2010). 978-1-55380-108-5 320 p.

Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks (Ronsdale, 2009). 978-1-55380-079-8 271 p.

Full-Time: A Soccer Story (Douglas Gibson Books, McClelland & Stewart, 2008). 978-0-7710-8645-8 293 p.

Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800-1850 (Ronsdale, 2006) 978-1-55380-039-2 253 p.

Understanding Belize: A Historical Guide (Harbour 2006). 240 p.

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2005). 260 p.

First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2004). 229 p.

101 Top Historical Sites of Cuba (Beach Holme 2004). 126 p.

Intensive Care: A Memoir (Anvil Press 2002). 80 p.

Cuba: A Concise History for Travellers (Harbour, 2004; Penguin Books 2002; Bluefield Books 2000). 198 p.

Twigg’s Directory of 1001 BC Writers (Crown Publications 1992). 194 p.

Strong Voices: Conversations with 50 Canadian Writers (Harbour 1988). 291 p.

Vander Zalm, From Immigrant to Premier: A Political Biography (Harbour 1986).

Vancouver and Its Writers (Harbour 1986). 165 p.

Hubert Evans: The First Ninety-Three Years (Harbour 1985).

For Openers: Conversations with 24 Canadian Writers (Harbour 1981).


First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 1 (Peking University Press, 2013)

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 2 (Peking University Press, 2013)

Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800–1850: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 3 (Peking University Press, 2013)


Conversations with Robertson Davies (University Press of Mississippi 1989)

Margaret Atwood, Conversations (Firefly 1990)

Take This Waltz: A Celebration of Leonard Cohen (The Muses Company 1994)

Uncommon Ground: A Celebration of Matt Cohen (Knopf 2002)

Memories of Chekhov: Accounts of the Writer from His Family, Friends and Contemporaries (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Press, 2011). Edited and translated by Peter Sekirin; Introduction by Alan Twigg

Conversations with Allen Ginsberg (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2019). Edited by David Stephen Calonne.

LEONARD COHEN UNTOLD STORIES: From This Broken Hill, Volume 2 (Simon & Schuster 2021) by Michael Posner’s

LEONARD COHEN UNTOLD STORIES: That’s How the Light Gets In (Simon & Schuster 2022) by Michael Posner

FILMS (partial list)

George Woodcock: Anarchist of Cherry Street

Eric Nicol: Look Back in Humour

Peter Trower: The Men They Were Then

Jeannette Armstrong: Knowledge-Keeper of the Okanagan

Spilsbury’s Coast

Remembering Bud Osborn

The Little Prince in Vancouver

A Blessing for Rudolf Vrba

Remembering Ronald Hatch


Upon leaving BC BookWorld

“A man of free intelligence”

Alan Twigg has steadfastly persevered, in Woodcock’s words, as “a man of free intelligence.” He has been the heart and soul of the B.C. book community since the 1970s. Over the course of his fifty years as a self-employed journalist, BC BookWorld’s founder has written about 12,000 B.C. authors, founded or co-founded most of the province’s literary awards and somehow written many books. Most of the writing for the first 125 issues of BC BookWorld has been his—uncredited. Now he plans to write more books and answer fewer emails. His new biography, Moon Madness: Dr. Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa, is about the only living physician who worked alongside Albert Schweitzer. “I wanted to write a book about a good person,” he says. Doubtless there is more to come.

We have had many queries from our readers, wondering why there has not been a leave-taking message of some sort, so I’ve asked him to write one. Here it is.

– Beverly Cramp, publisher of BC BookWorld


by Alan Twigg

People say you can’t just leave. You should say something.

Well, not necessarily.

It has been a matter of principle and some pride to keep myself out of this publication since 1987. I have adhered to a strict mandate: spread as much information as possible, about as many B.C. books as possible, to as many people as possible.

And if you don’t get to the end of an article, I have failed you.

I believe BC BookWorld is enjoyed and trusted by so many people because it is an educational publication full of news about the society in which you live. Most people don’t stop and think about it in these globalized digital times, but British Columbia has its own culture. The best way to learn its depth, diversity and its foundering collectivity is by reading its books.

For 33 years, I have been a grateful learner along with you. Except for one brief announcement about a brain tumour operation, my personal life has been irrelevant. Here’s all you need to know: My health is perfectly fine. I am still playing competitive soccer. While the seas are calm, while the good ship B.C BookWorld is still thriving and everything is stable, that’s the best time to pass along command of the ship.


Growing up here, as a fifth-generation Vancouverite, reading all of Thomas Hardy, with parents who never attended university, I gradually came to realize that a literary ladder of hierarchy was firmly in place. The best-known writers at the top were all English and dead. Followed by American and dead. Followed by English and alive. Then American and alive. Then Eastern Canada.

There was no sixth rung. B.C. writers were automatically invisibilized with only Pauline Johnson, Roderick Haig-Brown and humourist Eric Nicol as exceptions. Malcolm Lowry was not mentioned (they bulldozed his shack). Everyone accepted this hierarchy without question.

Instead of going to university to learn the hierarchy, I chose to drive a garbage truck while I was starting BC BookWorld in the late 1980s. I’d park the garbage truck in Lighthouse Park for extended lunch hours while I’d use the phone in one of the Parks Board buildings to make long distance calls to all the booksellers and librarians around the province, securing support for B.C. BookWorld to focus exclusively on books by, for or about British Columbians.

It has always been my goal to spread the wealth around. To be non-hierarchical. This was radical. In those early days, Stan Persky, in a Vancouver Sun article, dubbed me “the Robin Hood of Canadian literature.” David Lester joined me in Sherwood Forest from the get-go.

Our goal hasn’t swerved for four decades: let no B.C. writer be invisiblized. A reference site called ABCBookWorld was erected accordingly, hosted by SFU Library. We’ve also created the Literary Map of B.C., a digital news service called BCBookLook, more book awards than we have room to mention and recently The Ormsby Review, a new forum for in-depth book reviews, edited by Richard Mackie. Plus, eight documentary films about B.C. writers.

While we expanded our workload to do everything mentioned in the preceding paragraph, Canada Council funding has essentially stayed frozen for twenty years. In essence, we haven’t been paid for doing any of that extra stuff. As a two-person operation, we’ve continued to lob media bombs over the Rocky Mountains, counteracting the barrage of media that continuously tells British Columbians what and how to think.

In the immortal words of B.C. explorer Captain Bodega-y-Quadra, “I sailed on, taking fresh trouble for granted.” Now thousands of B.C. authors are widely-known and most people take that for granted. A New Orthodoxy (which includes bureaucrats) is now far less attuned to the needs of regional egalitarianism; now they want to control content directly.

Such top-down didacticism has the two Georges, Orwell and Woodcock, rolling in their graves.


Idealists have long gravitated west, such as the great Quaker novelist Hubert Evans who survived three years in World War I trenches before writing Mist on the River (1954), the Great BC Novel. As Anne Cameron likes to say, that’s why we put the Rocky Mountains there, so only the smart people can figure out how to get through.

Right now, we are blessed. I believe we have one of the most effective, social serving provincial governments on the planet. And, yes, we have writers as talented and worthy as anywhere else on earth. We therefore have a responsibility to come together and export our values and our literature, and provide leadership for a world that does not have the luxury of freedom for unlimited hope—as we do.

Thank you to all B.C. authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, BC Ferries & TNG, SFU Library, Vancouver Public Library, Creative B.C. (Richard Brownsey, Prem Gill, Robert Wong) and especially the readers who have steadfastly held fast to The Sixth Rung of the literary ladder.

Special thanks go to co-visionaries Howard White and Yosef Wosk for their much-needed wisdom.

Most of all, thank you to approximately 100,000 readers per issue—for getting to the end.

  • A.T